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Latest official tally puts death toll at about 225,000

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia—About 225,000 people were killed in the Asian tsunami, according to the latest official estimates, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.

The precise number of victims may never be known with certainty, experts said, but the tally represents the best assessment to date.

Governments from the tsunami-affected countries have confirmed the deaths of at least 178,953 people. Nearly 50,000 remain missing, and most of those are presumed dead, bringing the total to around 225,000.

Only a handful of disasters have claimed more than 200,000 lives, mainly earthquakes in China. Most recently, a 1976 temblor in Tangshan killed about 250,000, according to the Chinese government; some estimates place the toll at more than twice that.

Indonesia accounts for more than two-thirds of the tsunami's victims.

As of mid-June, 131,029 bodies had been found and buried, according to the Indonesian Red Cross, which has taken on the task of collecting the bodies. Another 37,000 people are missing.

In three other countries, the number of victims numbered in the thousands: 31,229 in Sri Lanka and more than 10,000 in India, with another 5,600 missing in the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands. Thailand has recovered 5,395 bodies and tallies about 2,800 missing.

Among the dead were a number of foreign tourists, including 557 Germans and 543 Swedes. The American death toll stands at 33, with 25 confirmed dead and eight presumed dead.

In all, the tsunami killed people in 11 countries, including 309 deaths in three East African countries.

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(Moritsugu is a Knight Ridder special correspondent. Knight Ridder correspondent Warren P. Strobel in Washington contributed to this report.)

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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